Sunday, August 28, 2011

New Cab: Zwackery - Bally/Midway 1986

They don't come much rarer than this 1986 machine by Bally/Midway - Zwackery. I never saw one in person until two weeks ago and my interest in the machine sparked a trade deal and a week after that, here we are!

It's a strange game with controls similar to Discs of Tron. But where the Discs of Tron controls are somewhat intuitive, Zwackery's are not. You control your character with a flight stick and a spinner, which can be pushed down and pulled up. The flight stick also has a thumb button and a trigger, making it pretty difficult to get use to the controls. The game even has a tutorial right off the bat to get you familiar, but it will take more time than that to get good.

I played about a dozen games the second night I got it and at that point, I had a pretty good feel for the controls and what they do. I could even slay the enemies I wanted to instead of flailing about, but I hadn't even started in on the spells, of which there are a few. It's pretty intimidating, but a very unique and eventually, a very rewarding game.

The graphics are just stellar and very advanced - I believe this was the very first 32 bit game in the arcades. It's fantasy themed, a swords and sorcery side-scrolling adventure. I haven't really got that far in the game, mostly due to playing a lot of C&D right now, but its an interesting game and one I will have to play a bit more when I can pry my fingers off the C&D. I may not get the chance though as it is up for sale currently at KLOV and there is an offer pending and a few interested parties, so we shall see. I was really on the fence about this being a keeper or not, but I think I will be happier with a pinball machine in the collection as I seem to be gripped by late 1970's/early 1980's pins at the moment.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Cloak & Dagger high score #1

Progress is happing very quick here. I have been practicing it a bit every time I can, getting a bit further and trying to figure out what the best path through the game is to max out points. I'll post this up as my first high score, a 1,090,165 score that got me to level 22 going back up. There is a lot of point pressing opportunities here and some interesting places to score and I am just loving the gameplay and time I am spending on this machine.

I added castors to the bottom and dialed it in a bit more monitor wise and its as good as its gonna be. I will start recording runs shortly as I am getting closer and closer to the clear. I have been trying new things on every run - using the 'express' elevator in different places, suiciding on high scoring floors, looking for the fastest path through the maze levels and seeing if spawning more than one superguard per floor is possible (I haven't done it yet).

I will be submitting a high score to Twin Galaxies at some point here as I feel the need to get some TG world record scores under my belt. Whenever I play in these vintage arcade tourneys, everyone else either has 'WR Holder in ...' or 'Former WR Holder...' titles and mine is always 'Good player at...'. My turn for a WR.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

New PCB: Cadash - Taito 1989

I first knew about this game through watching KET play via his UStream channel and I was always intrigued by it. It's a combination platformer and RPG, which is a weird combination for an arcade title, but it definitely works. It's a fantasy themed game with a Mage, Priestess, Warrior and a Ninja as playable characters. Ninjas were big in '89.

Like most RPG's, you kill stuff for experience and do some dungeon crawling for items and boss fights. The sprites are well drawn, like a grown up Rastan with equally as good music. There are hidden pathways in the game and it is satisfying to find them and strangely, pretty easy to do so.

It does require some planning on your part, so you really have to learn the stages and layouts to know what items to get and what level you should be at before tackling certain parts of the dungeon. It feels weird to level grind in an arcade title, but its always enjoyable.

I have made it a bout three levels into the game and I'm not really sure how many there are but its awesome fun. Got it off KLOV for cheap and I'm stoked that I own this piece of Taito history.

Donkey Kong 3 high score #2

Making some serious progress here. Went from some 200K games, to 300K to 400K to this high score, 523,700. It was plagued with stupid moves, but I am still learning alot of the patterns. I am making some progress on the later enemies and getting use to their movements. I'm right at about the point where the game does not get any harder. A few more levels should do it. There are no enemies remaining that I haven't seen, so I should be able to do pretty well here.

My games are lasting about a half hour in the upper 400K range to 500K, so, even with my limited math skills, I think if I can hit a mill, I should be good for the competition.

This game really is a shmup and super fun - fluid and satisfying and demanding on the later levels.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

New cab: Cloak & Dagger - Atari 1983

Finally! After looking for this game pretty seriously for the last ten years, I have finally found one! Cloak & Dagger is my holy grail of cabs, having become obsessed with it a few times over the years. Words cannot really do justice to my happiness and excitement, especially after playing it for the first time last night, on a dedicated cab and not through emulation. It's very similar to Robotron: 2084 in that it is a two-stick shooter, but differs in that there is an end to the game and warps to later levels and way more interesting floors and layouts.

You start out on the first floor, going down into Dr. Boom's Bomb Factory complex to find him and there are 33 levels downward. Once you hit the bottom, you get a chance to fight Dr. Boom, recover the stolen USAF plans and head back to the surface, now with harder floors. Each floor on the way down has a bomb in the center of the floor with a burning fuse, so you enter the floor, kill the guards, get pieces to a map to get out of a minefield map every 4 floors or so, sometimes grab an extra life in a box and head to the exit. You also have an igniter button, so that if you want to rack up some good points, you can ignite the fuse at a way shorter point to set the bomb off sooner. If you can time the bomb explosion - which engulfs the screen when it detonates - getting you into the elevator at the end of the level just before the blast reaches the door, you'll get a ton of points and flames will lick out from the cracks between the elevator doors in the cut scene. Awesome, just awesome fun.

I got into it at first as a child after watching the Disney movie of the same name and thinking how amazing the game looked, how cool the elevator cut scenes were, how awesome the music sounded. Later, when I started buying arcade games in the mid to late 1990's, I started looking for one again, reconnection with the interest in it of my youth, but I could not find one anywhere at any price. And these were the days when op's were dying to sell you stuff out of the backroom, before nostalgia hit on arcade cabs and where you could walk out with original Star Wars and Tron's for $150 a piece.

I kept looking around for years, finding a few for sale from time to time, but I was either too late or the price was waaaaaaaay to high. Finally, I found a local collector who had a B, B+ machine for sale for $1250 and as I was hemming and hawing, out of the blue came an email from someone on VAPS with a Cloak & Dagger, A- condition with a spare original marquee, a spare Agent X board (prototype version of C&D) and a spare C&D board too for $650. Holy. Shit.

I completely flipped out. He sent pictures and video's of the machine, its full sideart, its nearly pristine control panel and I just exploded with happiness. I immediately accepted his offer without any haggling and agreed to make the trip up from Chicago to Minneapolis, MN that following weekend and 15 1/2 hours later, here we are.

I installed it into the SRAM arcade for the time being and need to get some castors on it and tweak the monitor a bit too, but the rest of it is tip top. The joysticks are even tight and the CP is so clean underneath, it looks like it just came out of the factory, as does the coin box and all of the boards inside the cab. Just crazy nice.

I got in a few credits on it and posted a 900K score on it the first night, ending at level 30 on the way back up, using the warp on level 7 to head to level 30. There are a number of warps in the game and I will work on the short path first to get a good score and then maybe other longer paths to maximize the score if possible. The WR is 1,497,744 and I think I can give it some serious competition. My 900k score puts me in 3rd place for the game on Twin Galaxies with over 25 submitted scores, so I feel pretty good about that.

I'm super happy to own this and it came at a time when I had spare cash and time, like fate stepped in a decreed it was my time to own one. Thanks, fate. I'm f*^king happy as hell.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Donkey Kong 3 high score #1

I have been practicing after work for the past two nights and tonight I played for about an hour and a half, setting my first high score. It's a stellar game and really a lot of fun when you get the hang of it. It's very fast paced and requires some deft maneuvering and platforming skills. It feels like some sort of bastard child of a caravan title and Donkey Kong and it is quite possibly my favorite DK title.

I set this high score pretty quickly after starting this evening. It was the first time I had passed 350k and I just kept storming though to end up at 463,500. I'm not really sure how long it took and since I need to be able to marathon this for an hour, I definitely have to start timing myself.

New PCB: Progear - Cave/Capcom 2001

After getting Dave's PCB which had decided to have a melt down, I started to hunger for Progear. It didn't help that the few weeks leading up to me actually getting his Astro City and Progear board, I wantched the CKDF superplay and the Futobishi superplay numerous times. I also read through the high score boards on shmups and Cave-STG. I got seriously stoked.

I looked through a lot of sales posts on shmups to no avail, but also seriously considered trying to get a Phoenixed edition of the board as I really didn't want to have happen to my PCB at some future date what happened to Dave's board. The idea of having a ticking time bomb in the closet, ready to go off and kill a fantastic game is a little unnerving.

Luckily, I did find a Phoenixed board that I ended up with in trade, along with the Daimakaimura and I'm pretty stoked to say the least. It's an excellent looking board and one I actually feel safe with.

The game is one of only three Cave horizontals, the other two being 2007's Deathsmiles and 2011's Akai Katana. It was made for Capcom on their CPS2 hardware and was Cave's only foray into that hardware.

The graphics are done by none only than Joker Jun, who worked on such classic STG titles as Dogyuun, Batsugun, Dodonpachi, ESPrade and Guwange. His art style here looks excellent - kind of a steam punk meets more of a manga style akin to Batsugun rather than Dodonpachi. The sprites do have a look all their own, as Jun seems keen to make sure he isn't retreading what's he's drawn previously.

The soundtrack is beyond awesome, especially the stage 1,2 and 5 tracks and it ranks as one of my all-time Cave favorties. The gameplay is also very fluid and enjoyable, though the jeweling combo mechanic is pretty different. When you get it to work, it's great amounts of fun watching bullets turn into diamonds.

Speaking of bullets, the bullet spreads are super-organic, right up there with Ketsui. There are so many amazing bullet patterns and massive bullet spread moments that it can be a bit unnerving at first and then super-satisfying later dodging them.

I haven't been able to get any time in on this, save for a credit or two to test it out, but I am still very stoked to play this. I may move my cab at home horizontal for the time being so I can catch up on these great PCB's!

It's been a busy month with new acquisitions, with the DK3 cab and the Astro City cab, the Progear and Daimakaimura pcb's. I also have another horizontal platformer PCB on its way from Canada I am very excited about and a long road trip to make on Saturday to Minneapolis, MN, 8-hours away from me in Chicago to grab a cab I have been waiting for since I started buying full size arcade games back in 1996...

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

New PCB: Daimakaimura - Capcom 1988

If you have been following my blog these past few months, you know how much time I have sunk into Ghosts 'N Goblins. I dig it. It's hard, but enjoyable and Capcom mostly seems to hit it out of the park with their arcade platformers. So, after getting Dave's cab and keeping it as a horizontal cab, I decided to try and scrounge up a few good hori games.

I got this in a good trade with a fellow shmups member who ended up taking the Deathsmiles kit in trade for this and another new board on my list. Daimakaimura is the sequel to GnG and is a fantastic platformer - way easier and more fun than the original. The music is as haunting as the first with a good fantasy theme and just gets stuck in your head instantly.

The graphics are also of supreme quality, with very detailed sprites and backgrounds. There is so much good enemy sprite and background interaction that it lends a depth to the game you might not even notice at first, as ghouls pop out from behind trees in the background and red devils sit on piles of skulls.

I have found myself enjoying the hell out of this, wishing I had more time after work this week to enjoy it. Last night, I got a chance to get a few games in before I had to roll home and later, after I was out with friends for a weekly get together, I almost drove back to work to play for a while, but I knew I would have been there waaaaay to late into the morning to do me any good the next day.

Friday, August 12, 2011

New cab: Donkey Kong 3 - Nintendo - 1983

Long time coming. This is a cab I have wanted to add for a while and everytime I had one on the line, it got away, either by being crappy or by me just plain missing out.

Not this one. I found this on the local craigslist and secured a sweet deal on it. The side art is immaculate on both sides, the CP looks brand new, the marquee is in stellar shape as well. It also plays amazingly well - sticks, buttoms, all crisp and clean, like the Perrier of arcade controls.

The inside of this thing is immaculate, almost no dust. I think you could operate off it. The bottom, which tend to get destroyed after a while on Nintendo cabs, is almost brand new looking. It's creepy how clean this thing is.

It does have a small monitor issue with the horizontal coil, but I have a coil adjustment tool on its way. The t-molding is also cracked in a few places, so I'll order some of that as well at some point.

I bought this for two reasons: 1) I will be competing in the CAGDC Tournament at Richie Knucklez's arcade in NJ in September and choose this as one of the titles I can vote in and 2) I love this game.

It's like a weird combination of Galaga and a platformer and once you get the hang of it, it plays super fluid and its very rewarding. It's a very fast paced game and really enjoyable, especially for shmups fans.

It also has nothing to do with the general DK story lineas this game stars Stanley, a gardner and not Mario. Strange choice by Nintendo, but really, who cares who is in the game - its still awesome.

I have knocked off a few games of around 300K and I hope to be able to marathon this for an hour for the tourney and feel pretty good at being able to do that.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Deathsmiles high score #2

Now I am starting to get a better idea of what's going on. You do get bored with keeping rank low - without suicide bullets, the game is pretty easy. I didn't care enough to beat it on low rank, but now, I am playing on lvl 3 rank for each stage and the suicide bullets make it a lot more fun and challenging.

I have only played a dozen or so credits of this recently, but I can get to the final stage almost everytime. I am hoping for 100 mil + scores soon as I can see a lot of places where I am missing out on big scoring opportunities. The clear should be right around the corner without the EX stage. Haven't even tried that bad boy yet. I think there may be a great opportunity to score well there, but I haven't looked into it.

I did have a Rosa All Clear superplay on my harddrive for a while and it has since dissapeared - if anyone has it, let me know! I'm also hoping to hunt down the DVD and see what's up. It'd be nice to see what I am missing.

Friday, August 5, 2011

SRAM arcade, Deathsmiles high score #1

The Ghosts 'N Goblins needed some company, so I brought the vs. cab in. Shortly after that, my buddy Dave decided to get out of his cab and pcb's. I decided to pick his cab up and had it shipped from Cali. It arrived safe and sound, along with Out Zone, Deathsmiles and Progear. I set it up last night, played one credit of Deathsmiles and died on Tyranosatan at the end of 4-2 while the cleaning guy was asking me where I get all these games.

I managed 53,384,272 before I died, which doesn't seem too crappy for having no idea what I am doing scoring wise. I also didn't rank up to Lvl 3 until it made me. I'll have to try it with the rank on high soon.

The bad news is that Dave's Progear's battery decided to explode at some point during the last year or so as it was sitting and coated a corner of the board in some caustic acid and melted away a number of traces and chip legs. I'm gonna clean it off and send it out and see what the possibility of getting it working again are. I know that the board has now suicided, but I have no idea what the costs of resurrection might be. Damn.

I do feel blessed to have a job where after work, we have a beer fridge stocked with super good free beer, a nice stereo, tons of Nerf guns (mostly modded) and now three arcades. This is one of the many reasons I love my job and love working here at SRAM.